It said: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

And I chuckled…

Was it a coincidence that this sign was in our final stop of the evening, at the area we decided to sit and continue to share time and stories?

Nah…

I don’t believe it for a second.

It was like Ben was right there with us.

A friend died in December.

I wrote about it here recently.

He and I had been talking about exploring local beer options in the Clayton, NC area and putting an event together with the group for March. Clayton was his homebase. Pub crawling was an activity that we were exploring as a group – most of us like beer (not all, but those who don’t, don’t mind coming out to share time) – and we had discussed how it would be great to visit breweries and taprooms from different parts of the state.

He was really excited about going together to the ones close by where he lived, and I assured him we were going to make it happen.

And after learning he was gone and taking time to process my FEELS, I had to decide whether or not it was still going to happen, because it was only he and I who had talked it out as a possibility…

But it was still important to me to see it through – maybe even more so* – even if it was just me doing some NC beer exploring on my own. But I shouldn’t have even let that cross my mind…because everyone came out to make it a group thing. And it was good.

Grief unfolds a little at a time.

Well…maybe that’s just how it happens for me.

This beer exploration event was a bit of those grief-type feelings getting processed with close friends and like-hearts.

Lots of “I love you’s,” “I appreciate you’s” – and big, fat hugs.

My friend was big on hugs – and He was an awesome hugger.

In fact, after a discussion about the Five Love Languages with a small portion of our friends group, I learned that Physical Touch was his #1 (and Quality Time was the runner-up). And, as I planned on “digging in” to this awesome group of close-ones, and started noting simple things like their favorite kinds of cookies and deeper things like their love languages, I made a mental note on Ben’s list: offer enthusiastic hugs and bring Captain’s Dip to outings.

I figure, if there’s any way to show honor and respect to my friend’s memory, it’s by keeping the best parts of him alive and well, through love – and big, enthusiastic hugs.

So, I hugged in a big kind of way Saturday night.

And I hope I made him proud.

*This is an honest statement, but it makes me cringe. Why would it be even more important with him gone vs. with him here? It’s so easy to take our close-ones for granted. His death is challenging me to consider how I live my life, what commitments I hold myself to and how I honor time and opportunities to show love with family, friends and connections.